Monday, August 14, 2017

Your Writing Career: Up Your Credibility and Exposure by Writing Professional Reviews



Excerpted and expanded from the recently released 415-page book in Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically

Writing great professional reviews (as opposed to writing more casual reader reviews which I also cover as part of my newest how-to book for writers!) will probably entail tackling a slight learning curve. It isn’t as steep, however, as the curves required when you switch genres from, say, experimental genres to literary or poetry. With a few basic guidelines, you can write reviews to be proud of for your blog or other online review entities. Different media outlets have different style guides.

Here is why you might choose writing reviews as a way to give your writing career a nudge (you can read that market if you want to!).

§  1. Writing reviews is fun. It is, after all, writing. And it allows you to market by doing what you like to do.
§  2. Writing reviews will help you network with all kinds of editors, authors, and others in the publishing industry who may be in a position to help you market your own books.
§ 3.  Amazon and its links to your author’s profile page are waiting for you! Each review you post there contributes to your exposure on the one place in the world where the most readers and writing professionals hang out.
§  4. Your reviews lend to your credibility in the publishing world.

Here is a style guide similar to Midwest Book Review’s guidelines for their reviewers:
  • Your review should begin with metadata including:
    • Title.
    • Author.
    • Publisher.
    • Publisher’s address.
    • Publisher’s Web site address (if they have one).
    • Publisher’s e-mail address (if they have one).
    • ISBN.
    • Retail price.
    • Page count.
    • Your name (that would be you as the
      reviewer).

  • To write an engaging review, consider:
    • Including why you selected this particular book for review. Perhaps it relates to your work, hobby, avocation, a particular area of interest, your expertise, or just for fun.
    • Adding how the author uses language and structure, illustrates his/her points, develops characters. Use brief quotations from the book to support your observations, opinions, and comments. When writing poetry reviews, include an excerpt from a poem that illustrates a point; when writing a review of a cookbook, include a recipe that appeals to you.
    • Who the book is intended for. Address how well the material relates to that audience.
    • What the author is trying to accomplish? Entertain, instruct, persuade, inform, train, teach, alarm?
    • suggestions for the author to consider next time his or her work appears in print.
    • Including a bit about the author’s background, credentials, or other titles.
    • Including relevant titles that might interest the readers of this book.
    • To submit a review to journals, follow their formatting guidelines. Lacking those, type your reviews in single spaced paragraphs with double spacing between the paragraphs. The review can be a few paragraphs or a few pages—take as much space as you feel is necessary to say whatever you want to say, unless you are writing for a specific journal, blog, or review website. In that case, follow their suggested word count.
Above all, have a good time putting your thoughts and opinions down. The best reviews are those that you would like to listen to while driving along in your car or chatting with friends over lunch. I interpret this as meaning that this journal would prefer a casual tone rather than too much formality.

Here’s one of the most important guidelines for authors who choose to review for the good of their careers. Do you remember what Flower, the skunk in Disney’s Bambi said? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” We’ll just amend that to, “If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t write a review.

If a book is badly written or not worthwhile, send the book back to the author with a polite explanation that you are not a match for this book rather than slash and burn. It will look a little like the rejection notices we authors must become accustomed to in the submission process.  This doesn’t mean you can’t include some criticism. You should. Studies show that a review that is tempered by critique sells more books than rave reviews because they are viewed as more credible. Further, just as a critique group can make a difference in an author’s technique, so can a critical comment from a reviewer.
Hint: If you plan to pursue reviewing for pay, I recommend you read Mayra Calvani and Anne Edwards’ book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing or Magdalena Ball’s The Art of Assessment. It turns out that some writers carve entire careers out of reviewing. And others manage to make enough money from it to support their poetry or fiction habits until they become rich and famous.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as an instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor. They won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. She is celebrating the release of the third, How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically in the series.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Achievements with Essays and Flash Fiction by Patricia Crandall



An editor requests an essay. First of all, to me, essays were a dreaded school assignment. Admittedly, being forced to write an essay in grammar school was the beginning of my writing career. And meeting that first critical deadline proved I could produce a 
worthwhile written piece. My demanding but fair English teacher, Sister Emma Jane Marie, an Academy of the Holy Names nun clothed in a full black and white habit, discovered I could write creatively before I knew I could. Once she took me under her wing, I wrote for the school newspaper and published many of my class writing assignments in newspapers and various magazines.

Hundreds of essays later, I am still intimidated by the request for a particular essay. How do I start writing on that blank paper or computer screen? First, the ideas flow. Then word binges and thought flashes follow. The process is similar to a horse race. Ready. Set. Go! And I am amazed that words written in a ‘tight’ order can be produced so easily once the creative juices surge. And in a reasonably short time, a finished piece is ready to send to an editor.

Essays can be read in minutes – on a train, on an Uber ride, on a plane, or on a lunch break. They may entertain, instruct, and improve one’s health and well-being. It may be a reflection of our fast-paced world, however, essays are ‘in.’ Dig in the files, writers, for reprints to update into essays and flash fiction. 

As a writer, I prefer to work on short stories and novels, however, presently mainstream, ezine and small press magazines require more essays and flash fiction of 500 words or less. Even simple thoughts are sought after. Not too long ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive in the mail, a $50.00 check for an ‘idea’ a popular woman’s magazine printed in its 'Indulgences' page. As a result of this success, I have had acceptances of additional three or four line ‘bits.’ Due to these favorable results, I bring a pen and tablet wherever I go – doctor’s waiting rooms, on vacation where thoughts stream generously and on the playground while my three grandchildren are having fun burning high energy. Their energy ignites my energy and I am on a roll.  

Essays can be read in minutes – on a train, on an Uber ride, on a plane, or on a lunch break. They may entertain, instruct, and improve one’s health and well-being. 

It may be a reflection of our fast-paced world, however, essays are ‘in.’ Dig in the files, writers, for reprints to update into essays and flash fiction.






THIEF AMONG THE VEGETABLES by Patricia Crandall (poem)

Dratted rabbit
interferes
with my planting/hoeing/spraying
for the season,
Scat nuisance!
I plant onions
circling round the garden
and smile fatuously.
That little brown cottontail
will never pass
through this barrier again
I have been told.
Lo and behold ...
my rich harvest of radishes,
lettuce, green beans
and squash ,.. cucumbers
ripe for plucking
pilfered, stolen,
nibbled away by
that long eared, bushy-tailed
vegetable thief!

by Patricia Crandall 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Sales Getting Musty? By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Adapted from the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter
 
 
In the world of publishing as in life, persistence counts. Of course, there is no way to keep a book at the top of the charts forever, but if you keep reviving it, you might hold a classic in your hands. Or your marketing efforts for one book may propel your next one to greater heights.
 
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen authors who measure their success by book sales give up on their book (and sometimes on writing) just about the time their careers are about ready to take off. I tell my students and clients to fight the it’s-too-late-urge.
 
Publicity is like the little waves you make when you toss pebbles into a lake. The waves travel, travel, travel and eventually come back to you. If you stop lobbing little stones, you lose momentum. It’s never too late and it’s never too early to promote. Rearrange your thinking. Marketing isn’t about a single book. It’s about building a career. And new books can build on the momentum created by an earlier book if you keep the faith. Review the marketing ideas in this book, rearrange your schedule and priorities a bit, and keep at it.
 
Here are a few keep-at-it ideas from the second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter:
  • Run a contest on your Web site, on Twitter, or in your newsletter. Use your books for prizes or get cross-promotion benefits by asking other authors for books; many will donate one to you in trade for the exposure. Watch the 99 Cent Stores for suitable favors to go with them.
 
Hint: Any promotion you do including a contest is more powerful when you call on your friends to tell their blog visitors or Facebook pals about it.
 
  • Barter your books or your services for exposure on other authors’ Web sites.
  • Post your flyer, brochure, or business card on bulletin boards everywhere: In grocery stores, coffee shops, Laundromats, car washes, and bookstores.
  • Offer classes in writing to your local high school, college, or library system. Publicizing them is easy and free. When appropriate, use your own book as suggested reading. The organization you are helping will pitch in by promoting your class. The network you build with them and your students is invaluable. Use this experience in your media kit to show you have teaching and presentation skills.
  • Slip auto-mailers into each book you sell or give away for publicity. Automailers are envelopes that are pre-stamped, ready to go. Your auto mailer asks the recipient to recommend your book to someone else. Your mailer includes a brief synopsis of your book, a picture of the cover of your book, your book’s ISBN, ordering information, a couple of your most powerful blurbs, and a space for the reader to add her handwritten, personal recommendation. Make it clear in the directions that the reader should fill out the form, address the envelope, and mail it to a friend. You may offer a free gift for helping out, but don’t make getting the freebie too tough. Proof-of-purchase type schemes discourage your audience from participating.
  • Send notes to your friends and readers asking them to recommend your book to others. Or offer them a perk like free shipping, gift wrap, or small gift if they purchase your book for a friend. That’s an ideal way to use those contact lists you’ve been building.
  • While you’re working on the suggestion above, put on your thinking cap. What directories have you neglected to incorporate into your contact list? Have you joined any new groups since your book was published? Did you ask your grown children for lists of their friends? Did you include lists of old classmates?
  • Though it may be a bit more expensive than some ideas in this book, learn more about Google’s AdWords and AdSense and Facebook's ad program. Many authors of niche nonfiction or fiction that can be identified with often-searched-for keywords find this advertising program effective.
  • Check out ad programs like Amazon’s Vine review service. You agree to provide a certain number of books to Amazon and pay them a fee for the service. Amazon arranges the reviews for you. It’s expensive, but it gets your book exposed to Amazon’s select cadre of reviewers who not only write reviews for your Amazon sales page but also may start (or restart!) a buzz about your book.
  • Some of your reviews (both others’ reviews of your book and reviews you’ve written about others’ books) have begun to age from disuse. Start posting them (with permission from the reviewer) on Web sites that allow you to do so. Check the guidelines for my free review service blog at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com.
  • Connect and reconnect. Start reading blogs and newsletters you once subscribed to again. Subscribe to a new one. Join a writers’ group or organization related to the subject of your book.
  • Record a playful message about your book on your answering machine.
  • When you ship signed copies of your book, include a coupon for the purchase of another copy for a friend—signed and dedicated—or for one of your other books. Some distributors insert fliers or coupons into your books when they ship them for a fee.
  • Adjust the idea above to a cross-promotional effort with a friend who writes in the same genre as you. He puts a coupon for your book in his shipments; you do the same for him in yours.
  • Explore the opportunities for speaking on cruise ships. Many have cut back on the number of speakers they use, but your area of expertise may be perfect for one of them. I tried it, but found ship politics a drawback. Still, many authors like Allyn Evans who holds top honors in Toastmasters and Erica Miner have used these venues successfully. For help with the application process from beginning to end, contact Daniel Hall at speakerscruisefree.com.
------




Carolyn Howard-Johnson has been promoting her own books and helping clients promote theirs for more than a decade. Her marketing plan for the 2nd in the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, The Frugal Editor)won the New Millennium Award for Marketing. The second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter is a USA Book News award winner and was given the coveted Irwin Award from Book Publicists of Southern California (BPSC). Her most recent, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically was released in December. Learn more about Carolyn and her books of fiction and poetry that helped her learn more about what kinds of marketing work best for writers at www.howtodoitfrugally.com. or at her Amazon profile, http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile.

 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Your Characters Speak Your Language


  
One of the most difficult accomplishments in writing is to get a certain character’s dialect and accent correct.
When you include foreign characters in your story, it’s imperative that your reader know they have an accent relative to the country or locale from which they hail.
Be attentive to these nuances or all your characters will sound like you. An author who is not a linguist or grammarian may have a certain limited capability at using the English language. Without expanding your knowledge or simply using a Thesaurus, you will find yourself repeating the same words and phrases over and over.
Let’s take the example of a foreign accent. Your character’s manner of speech will be greatly affected by the way you describe that person and the nuances of the country of their birth. Say you’ve set up your character as being from France. Maybe he dresses in fine French clothes, is real dapper and has European table manners. Beyond that, have him use French phrases like mon cherie in the course of his dialogue.
Foreign phrases you attach to your character should be fairly well known to the general public. These phrases both immediately give the reader the character’s flavor of speech; it also lets the reader skim smoothly over the foreign phrase by imagining an accent, and stay in the story.
Including a phrase that not too many people have heard makes the reader pause to try to understand. That is something you do not want to happen.
When writing in English, the author must still assure that all characters have their own manner of speaking.
A cowboy has a laid-back southern drawl, as in “I ain’t into office work,  ma’am. I ride horses.” Can you hear him speak?
The African man who made it to the Olympics has an Nigerian accent that no one understands. Yet, when he’s marching with all the other athletes, carrying his country’s flag and yells his country’s motto while pumping a fist into the air, we know exactly what he means.
The Latino from south of the border speaks broken English interspersed with his home area colloquialisms and politely calls women Senora or Senorita.
These are but a few examples of unique characters who must sound different. Each would be enhanced by the way the author introduces them into the story.
The cowboy always wears boots, even with a tuxedo.
The African man plays his drums because he misses home, but doesn’t want to miss a chance at the Olympics either.
The Latino does his own cooking because he can’t get real authentic south-of-the-border cooking at a restaurant.
When you develop your characters well, many times, even their simplest conversations will appear to the reader as being spoken with some sort of accent or brogue.

Never overlook that once you set up the special characters that people your story, their dialogue must follow suit. You must set your characters apart, not only in mannerisms and such, but in their dialogues. Otherwise all your characters will sound like you, the author, and will speak the same language as you.


Mary Deal

Author, Painter, Photographer
Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist (past)
Pushcart Prize Nominee
Global eBook Awards Nominee
2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist
Global eBook Awards Bronze
Global eBook Awards Silver
Art Gallery: http://www.MaryDealFineArt.com
Gift Gallery: zazzle.com/IslandImageGallery*


Friday, July 14, 2017

Author Intrusion




Author intrusion is something I saw a bit of in new writers’ manuscripts when I did a lot of editing.

A story is usually told through the mind of one or more characters. It’s known as the story’s point of view (POV). (Also see the article Choosing a Point of View above in The Parts) The reader is only allowed to know what the point of view character perceives and experiences internally.

Here’s a correct sentence written through a character’s mind, told in 3rd Person POV:

~ Sara watched with nerves on edge, unsure of what she was seeing.

Now told using author intrusion:

~ If we look at Sara, we see that she is hesitant about getting involved.

In the 3rd Person POV, we are in Sara’s mind experiencing hesitation with her.
In the author intrusion example, the author stopped the story to speak directly to the reader, telling the reader what Sara experiences, instead of letting the reader be Sara.
In the past, many stories were told in this manner. The author seemed to speak directly to the reader, or as if the writer were addressing a group of people. This method of storytelling has become passé. Readers want to become their favorite characters and experience with them and not simply be told by a narrator.
Author intrusion is easily avoided if the writer stays in the mind of the point of view character. The character will not stop the story to speak to the readers.


Mary Deal

Author, Painter, Photographer
Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist (past)
Pushcart Prize Nominee
Global eBook Awards Nominee
2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist
Global eBook Awards Bronze
Global eBook Awards Silver
Art Gallery: http://www.MaryDealFineArt.com
Gift Gallery: zazzle.com/IslandImageGallery*



Sunday, July 9, 2017

DAMSELFLIES AND DRAGONFLIES


 
A dragonfly
rests upon a wooden dock
in restive purple sunlight.
Gossamer wings
spread out in beauty.
A damsel-flies by,
perches nearby,
wings folded.


 by

Patricia Crandall 

Your Writing Career: Up Your Credibility and Exposure by Writing Professional Reviews

Excerpted and expanded from the recently released 415-page book in Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Serie...